TNT Katropa proved it’s still the MVP group’s flagship club – at least on Wednesday night – as it cruised past NLEX, 101-75, to stay alive in the playoff race of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Fighting for their postseason lives, the Texters went off on a strong start and hardly showed any letup from there on to coast to the victory to end the conference with five wins in 11 games.
Kelly Williams sustained his vintage form, posting 17 points, 16 boards, and three steals, while Jericho Cruz made a solid debut for the Texters, who moved to joint eighth spot with Blackwater and gained a chance of at least a playoff for the last quarterfinal spot.
The Texters also stalled the Road Warriors’ bid for a spot in the Top Six after their victims ended the conference at 6-5.
“We’ve been struggling offensively this conference and that’s no secret. I think the two week break really helped us,” TNT coach Nash Raceala said. “Today, at least offensively we looked a lot better than in our previous games.”
“We knew going to this game that we needed a win, and the only thing we can control is this game,” he added. “Hopefully, after things pan out, we’re still in.”
The Texters drew the extra firepower from Cruz, who delivered in his first game since being acquired in a trade with Rain or Shine, putting up 17 points, highlighted by three triples, that came with four assists, three rebounds, and two steals.
The fourth-year guard scored eight of his output in the first period that ended with the Texters establishing an 11-point lead that ballooned to 38 points at one point in the third quarter.
Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, and Jayson Castro came back from national duty and also gave the Texters a lift as they were the other three TNT players who scored in double digits.
JR Quinahan led the Road Warriors with 20 points, although 16 came in garbage time in the fourth quarter, while Kiefer Ravena was held to just one point after missing his three shots in just 12 minutes of play.
TNT 101 – Williams 17, Cruz 17, Rosario 14, Pogoy 13, Castro 10, Tamsi 7, Garcia 6, Paredes 5, Semerad 3, Reyes 3, Carey 2, Torres 2, Tautuaa 2, Golla 0, Nuyles 0
NLEX 75 – Quinahan 20, Alas 14, Al-Hussaini 10, Mallari 5, Monfort 5, Miranda 5, Soyud 4, Tiongson 3, Ighalo 3, Fonacier 3, Taulava 2, Ravena 1, Uyloan 0, Baguio 0
Quarterscores: 27-16, 58-28, 80-50, 101-75